A Spy's Dilemma
Let's just assume for a moment that you are a real life secret agent.
The kind that does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. The kind that, if caught, will meet a dismal end after suffering through days, weeks, sometimes years of torture at the hands of cruel, dedicated, determined and soulless men, unworthy of that name. The kind that will eventually come to desire death as the ultimate relief from your expertly and thoroughly ruined body.
There are many ways to get caught.
First, it could be you. You cannot let fear paralyze you, but you could have been careless in ways you could not even have anticipated. Unbeknownst to you, you could have been put upon surveillance so intense that even an innocent civilian could get picked up and tortured, just to make sure. You could have used a code that had recently been cracked, a resource that could be traced. You could have failed to spot a tail. Your concierge might have a long nose and a loose tongue. Just about anything, any detail that escaped your attention can and probably will get you caught.
Even details you don't have any way to know about.
It could be your network that gets you nabbed. Your handler or someone else you know and trust may be compromised, their families held hostage, as the Chinese like to do. Your opposite numbers may be quietly rolling up your whole outfit as if it were a tube of toothpaste, extracting every bit of information along the way, until they get to you.
You could have been involved in the American networks in Lebanon, or China, or the Palestinian network after the 1970 Olympics.
Very often, a mole will denounce you. One man's traitor is another man's freedom fighter.
Who would you rather have as a colleague, or even the person responsible for the intelligence network that you're involved in? Allow us to throw out a few examples :
USSR army colonel Oleg Penkovsky:
Former G.R.U. Colonel
His father fought against and was killed by the rising communists in Russia, the same forces he served as a colonel in the G.R.U., the Soviet military intelligence. He was giving the West intelligence that eventually helped to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis from becoming a nuclear Armageddon.
His motivations were revenge, and preventing Nikita Khrushchev's crazy ambition of world domination.
His dedication was strong and led to the kind of death that was mentioned above.
CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton:
Former head of CIA counterintelligence
He was deemed unbalanced by some, but was appreciated by the six
CIA directors he worked for. As head of CIA counterintelligence, his markedly paranoid tendencies served him well, even though his constant flailing search for the mole he was convinced existed in US intelligence circles was deemed misguided and even ruinous.
He famously said that “Deception is a state of mind, and the mind of the state.” Even though he told UPI upon his resignation that "my usefulness has ended" and that he deemed the CIA was now involved in police state activities, he was immediately rehired upon his retirement.
His dedication was beyond any doubt.
FBI special agent Robert Hanssen:
Former FBI Special Agent
Serving fifteen life sentences in a Colorado Supermax for treason. Three years after joining the FBI, he offered his services to the Soviets, eventually raking in 1.4 million dollars from the USSR's and then the Russian Federation's G.R.U., while the US paid a Russian asset 7 millions to finally nab him.
He spied for the Russians for a total of twenty-two years, longer even than the infamous Aldrich Ames, becoming in the words of the Department of Justice "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history." When they finally caught him in 2001 and put him in handcuffs, he asked the arresting officers : “What took you so long?”
As a spy he was incredibly effective and in our opinion a very disturbed man, but in the end, if nothing else, you could say he was motivated by gain.
A spy's dilemma
So who would choose as a comrade-in-arms, a handler, a contact or a superior officer if you had to face all the perils that becoming a spy entails? Who would you choose to trust with your life?
One would certainly avoid an operative of the likes of Hanssen, who was on the market to the highest bidder. One would also give due consideration to Angleton for his unshakable fidelity to his country, although, in field work, his paranoid streak could possibly attract undue attention.
Paradoxically Penkovsky, an enemy colonel, would be a good but less than ideal choice, but...
… unfortunately there is one last entry on our list. And this one is the Überboss.
United States President Donald John Trump:
Said Seth Meyers : “If you don't know anything, and then you learn one thing, it seems like a lot.”
The president. The supreme commander in chief of the most powerful country on earth and the most powerful armed forces, demonstrated over and over again that he loves and admires America's enemies and wants to emulate dictators. He demonstrated that democracy is a concept that escapes him, and thus sees it as only an impediment that he would rather trample and discard. He also often disparaged lawmakers, fellow politicians, and members of his own armed forces, even exceptionally brilliant and courageous soldiers and officers. He is not averse to demeaning even the dying or the dead, his whole attitude saying that “he only supports the military when they bow down to him”, which means that “Trump will turn on you if you fail to worship him sufficiently.” He said he wants “my people” to “sit up at attention” like North Koreans. All he wants from his military is a superfluous, politically motivated show of strength against a ragtag column of scared, desperate refugees, and of course his own big, beautiful parade...
No wonder that the military has this rather biting nickname for him : “Cadet bone spurs”, referring to his avoidance of military service at all costs. He himself declared that avoiding contracting a sexually transmitted disease in his draft-avoiding days had been “his own personal Vietnam.”
As a liar he could make a good spy, but he would have to be a good liar, which he is not. Neither is he smart. Or balanced…
As an 'Ugly American', his accomplishments are many. To a point where some are predicting that he might conceivably lose the military vote if he ever runs for office again. The military and the intelligence services are somewhat joined at the hip, but the list of grievances of the intel people against Trump is much longer.
All this will most certainly lead to a chilling effect among those who would become spooks. Remember Valerie Plame, hung out to dry in dangerous circumstances by the Bush administration? This is much, much worse.
This is a time when experts warn that the US could realistically lose a war against Russia or China. A time when Vladimir Putin tries to use Interpol to round up enemies and dissidents, while even the US President seems interested in cooperating with the enemy and giving him Michael McFaul, a respected United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, wanted by Putin for questioning.
Understandably, McFaul was thoroughly freaked out.
America, the Five Eyes, the West needs a steady hand at the helm and people who would be willing to risk all for its causes. Unfortunately, all they have is Donald John Trump, who happens to be the United States president, the commander in chief of the armed forces and the beholder of all the secrets of state. The West doesn’t need that guy who famously asked its enemy : "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the thirty thousand emails that are missing" precipitating an immediate flurry of Russian hacking activity.
As United States President, he has failed on all counts. He did succeed, however, in installing fellow grifters and assorted semi-or-fully criminal cronies in all manners of important government posts. He also demonstrated an affinity towards the enemy.
Would you risk all with such a man at your side or anywhere near the network upon which depends your very life?
It has been said that everything he touches dies.
Would YOU sign up?
This writer predicts that, if this sad state of affairs keeps up for a few more years, “the Trump effect” will lead to a dearth of qualified and able assets of all stripes and active intelligence services personnel.